'Burn now, pay later'

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Sir David Attenborough talk to school children at the Science Museum for Launch of the UK hosting of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).

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The UK Government announced its net zero strategy today. But then it went down in flames.

There’s two problems with the government’s net zero strategy – net and zero.

Plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to reach a target of net zero by 2050, announced by the UK Government today are a “burn now, pay later” strategy which is not fit for purpose, MPs have heard.

Energy minister Greg Hands told the House of Commons the strategy “is not just an environmental transition, it represents an important economic change too”.

But Labour’s Clive Lewis said: “There’s two problems with the government’s net zero strategy – net and zero. Zero because it isn’t zero.

Economic

"We know there are sectors beyond 2050, like aviation, that will be pumping out millions of tonnes into the atmosphere – and net because we know they are relying on negative emissions technologies which, frankly, are based on science fiction, of which there is no prospect of mass rollout, and we are banking on this to rescue us from the climate crisis.

“This is a burn now, pay later document and strategy that isn’t fit for purpose.”

Labour chairman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Darren Jones, said: “People across the country will want to know whether the promises made today will actually be delivered or once again result in failure.”

He also asked "how the vouchers schemes announced today will be delivered differently to the failed schemes of the past such as the green homes grant?”

Mr Hands replied: “In the last 30 years, to have reduced emissions so successfully whilst actually achieving economic growth, I think is a record overall of success.

Example

“This new scheme will go with the flow, it’ll be simpler, easier to administer.”

Conservative MP Mark Harper raised the issue of cost, asking: “For a constituency like mine in the Forest of Dean, where many homes are not capable of being brought up to very high levels of energy efficiency and aren’t on the gas grid, what is the solution for them to make sure they can decarbonise their heat at an affordable price for those that perhaps aren’t (on) the highest of incomes.”

The energy minister said the government has already committed £2.5 billion to off-the-grid properties through the Home Upgrade Grant and extending it to 2030 will be explored.

New investment for electric car grants, on-street charging points and planting trees are some of the pledges announced as the Government set out its plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Ministers said they would support 440,000 well-paid jobs and unlock £90 billion in private investment in 2030 on the way to the mid-century goal, as well as reduce the UK’s reliance on imported fossil fuels, putting the country at risk of global price rises.

The long-awaited net zero strategy has been announced ahead of the UN Cop26 climate talks, which the UK is hosting in Glasgow, with ministers hoping to set an example to other countries on how to go green.

These Authors

Martina Bet, Ben Hatton and Elizabeth Arnold are political reporters with PA.

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